Back in March 2020, Congress passed multiple unemployment programs designed to assist Americans who were out-of-work due to the pandemic. Although these programs are slated to expire on September 6th, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced last month that the state would cease payment of these benefits on July 3rd. These programs include:
1) the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides benefits for claimants who are ineligible for regular unemployment and are unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason (including freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors, and other who would not ordinarily receive unemployment);
2) the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Program, which provides benefits to claimants after they have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits; and
3) the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program, which provides an additional $300 in benefits to claimants.
Hogan cited the state’s recovering economy and high vaccination rate in support of his decision, as well as the need for worker to return to work. However, out-of-work Maryland residents filed two separate lawsuits in state court that sought to prevent the termination of these programs. On July 13rd, Baltimore Circuit Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill issued a preliminary injunction, which ordered the state to rescind its termination of the programs and continue with the payments of pandemic unemployment benefits. In his opinion, Judge Fletcher-Hill ruled that the Plaintiffs had a likelihood of succeeding on the merits. Specifically, he ruled that they were likely to prove that the early termination of the programs would violate Title 8 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland Code, as well as their equal protection rights under Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Judge Fletcher-Hill also ruled that the balance of harms and the public interest leaned in favor of the continuation of the pandemic benefits, and that the Plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed if the benefits were discontinued.
A spokesperson for the Governor said that although he fundamentally disagreed with the Judge’s decision, he would not appeal the preliminary injunction. If you have any questions about the pandemic unemployment programs, or any area of employment law, contact Thatcher Law Firm at 301-441-1400. www.ThatcherLaw.com. Follow us on: